The week following the Easter holidays was hectic to say the least for the MMA world.
Whether you got caught up in the mire that ensued following Jon Jones' latest alleged misdemeanour, the disappointing news of Daniel Cormier's injury forcing him out of his fight against Jones or the announcement of UFC 200's headlining acts, there was plenty of MMA media activity to keep you occupied throughout the week.
The latter arguably stoked up the most interest and bemusement among MMA fans—both hardcore and casual. The newly-minted match-ups between Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz—as well as the projected co-main event between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar for the interim featherweight title—were loved and loathed in equal measure.
But, one man was left on the wayside during all this furore—Max Holloway. The Hawaiian is riding the much-vaunted UFC featherweight division's longest ongoing winning streak, an incredible run of eight consecutive victories, since his 2013 loss to present featherweight champ McGregor.
Three of the four figures announced to fight at the top of the UFC 200 bill—McGregor, Aldo and Edgar—are at top end of the featherweight pecking order above fourth-ranked Holloway. But, Holloway never featured in the talk surrounding McGregor's next opponent, nor was he ever really considered to face either Aldo or Edgar in the near future.
Why not? Many have pointed to Edgar's impressive five-fight winning run since losing his first shot at Aldo back in 2013. But, Holloway's streak of eight is arguably more impressive, defeating top names in Cub Swanson, Charles Oliveira and Jeremy Stephens along the way—the former two of which also feature in Edgar's celebrated run.
However, it's his last opponent in Stephens who Holloway believes has cost him his chance to be featured in the featherweight title reckoning. Holloway feels Stephens—a tough, durable fighter for anyone fighting at the 145lbs limit—halted his momentum despite emerging the victor with a unanimous decision in his favor.
Talking to MMA Fighting, Holloway said: ""I just feel left out because my last fight wasn't a finish. When I was finishing guys, the media was on me like crazy. Then I have this one decision win against a guy (Jeremy Stephens) who, 'Cowboy' Cerrone, Anthony Pettis these guys couldn't finish him. And then people are looking at me, asking me how the hell I didn't finish him. It's like, look at these guys. These guys are beasts and they had a hard time with the fight too. They couldn't finish him either.
"So I'm a true believer in, people only remember you for your last fight. And my last fight, I felt, was great, but I guess some people didn't think it was so hot. So it is what it is."
Holloway is a fighter who prides himself on activity within the confines of the Octagon. Going two back-to-back years with four fights apiece (and wins, of course). It's now been three months since Holloway's victory over Stephens—time wasted for a young fighter who will want to add more Ws in his run and earn a deserved, long-awaited title shot.
"I want to get back in there and I want to get busy. I've been telling everybody, I've had four fights each in back-to-back years. One fight was in January (in 2014), and then last year my first fight was in February. Now, it's like the end of March and I have no fight. I'm not even booked yet. I would like to get back in June or July. The UFC 200 card, that big one, or June on that big Weidman-Rockhold card (UFC 199). But still, look, that's almost half the year. Half the year is almost gone by fighting there, so I want to get busy.
"If it takes 10, 12, 13... I'll just keep going. Because like I said, I want to just prove I'm the best in the world. So if I have to keep proving it, I'm going to go out there and keep proving it. But at the end of the day, I want those big money fights. So whenever the big money fights start rolling in, that should be fun. But I don't know. Who knows? The UFC has a mind of its own. Whatever they want to do, I'm down for. Just keep me active, please. That's all I ask the UFC to do. Keep me active."
Aside from the plethora of fun fights produced by those competing at 145lbs, the featherweight division is in an exceptionally interesting place as of now. With the division's champion in McGregor gallivanting in a weight class 25lbs above the one of which he is king, the UFC's hand has been forced in setting up that interim title showdown between Aldo and Edgar.
While Holloway continually asked for match-ups against anyone in the top three of his division's rankings in the lead up to UFC 200, the others battled for McGregor's attention. But, it's McGregor who Holloway has longed to compete against for years following his decision loss to the Irishman in 2013. Frustrated, Holloway isn't even sure the Dubliner will return to the featherweight division to defend his belt, let alone give Holloway a second chance at overcoming McGregor.
"At the end of the day, who knows if he comes back to 145? Honestly, my feeling, I don't think that he does. I think that 155-pound fight (against dos Anjos) was already saying that he just wanted to be at 155, hold the two titles, say that he did it, then just move up full-time. That's what I thought he was thinking of doing, because he's a big guy. All you hear of him is struggling to make 145. This guy struggles. You see, all he does is cut weight all week long.
"So he was going to go up sooner or later. Then you see him getting bigger every fight... His last fight, he was a big boy and he already had a hard time cutting. With him going back up to 170, I think he's going to gain weight and have to cut a little, just trying to compete at that level, at 170. So who knows if he's coming down?"
Still only 24 years old, Holloway remains one of the most promise-rich talents on the UFC books. Whether it's a shot at the interim title fight winner, McGregor, third-ranked Chad Mendes or someone beneath his ability—we can only live in hope that Max Holloway puts any thoughts of neglect stemming from UFC 200 behind him and makes his return to the Octagon in a timely manner.